Not long ago I was learning to make shootings. Many of my camera features were just, somehow, little mysteries. Anyway I didn't care about that. To me, that thing I had hanging on my neck wasn't just a camera, full of secret codes. But a kind of magic box that allowed me finding and capturing the hidden heartbeats of life. At that time I was already enchanted by candids. They were the real beats that I wished to hear/watch. And above all, behold.

It was late afternoon and sunset was coming. At first, I decided to fix feet and eyes at a bustling school courtyard, in the soul of São Paulo, old downtown: Pátio do Colégio. It's a historic building near several clothing stores on a sloping street, General Carneiro. Moreover, the most important stock exchange in South America was only five minutes walk. During the week, especially, a very busy local. Just perfect for my goal that day, be unseen. So... I was free to take some pictures of those people who walk often hastily around.

Almost anything or anyone but myself, were standing there. Just a lonely old woman leaning against a wooden post and a dog resting under the closed-door of the building.

Anyhow, my eyes were driven by a cold autumn drift. Back and forth a twine, a paper ball and a green ordinary plastic seemed conducting the leaves of scantily clad trees. Like a dance. Among legs, whistles and pigeons. And indifferent to estranged faces of passersby.

Between all those people, there were always who I usually deposited more attention when shooting. I remember, by the way, even the passage of a call girls group - that I had photographed few days ago elsewhere. I also noticed some beggars, ice cream sellers, hawkers, executives, couples dating, among others. Whatever, for some reason, none of it motivated me to get the camera from my purse. I kept busy with that dancing. Seems I remained weirdly in a kind of trance. But that wouldn't last long.

Suddenly, the piece of green plastic stalled under the weight of a low-heeled shoe. Was the woman under the light pole, still tough as limestone. I could only see that person from behind, further supported in the same way. Her hair, gray and disheveled, reminded the witches of fairy tales.

So, I decided to get up and meet her face.

I didn't want to draw her attention. And I circled the woman at a safe distance. Stealthy. The sun finally shone her face... which was absurdly ghastly. Rigid, square and protruding bones. The black eyes, rough, seemed to fix anything on the other side of the world. The cracked lips were flanked by two deep grooves. Her forehead was invaded by arched thick eyebrows. I also noticed that her hands, which rested on her chest, were pressing an identity of fine print, crumpled.

Again and again I watched that old woman. For some reason, I didn't know if I'd have enough courage to approach a bit more and take that picture. Few minutes had passed and my camera was still in my purse.

She didn't see me, apparently. Nor cared about anything around, stagnant like that. It wouldn't be difficult to get her picture. But my wish was to photograph that woman right in front. I really wanted that look, that whole face, every detail in the frame.

But an odd sensation had taken care of me. Although being myself a rookie - or even because of it -, I had done many similar pictures without bothering myself with the people reactions. I regarded that a photographer should be a sort of officer without scruples or morals: First, the shot. Questions for later.

However, the humanity need to see that face, I thought. :))

And I did:

I took a deep breath, quieted my bosom and pulled the camera. And before that woman, finally cranked up the shutter.

Yet, the old woman's reaction wasn`t what I`d suppose. No, far from it. That woman hasn't issued any sound. She didn't gesture, released roars of anger or threatened to assault me. No fury, no complaints. Just a smile.

Yeah, a smile...

The most sweet, bright and outspoken smile that my memory can reach.

Immediately, I felt ashamed.

I nodded slightly, in acknowledgment. And without a word, walked away. A second later and all I knew was that shot was for the birds.

Today, when I look at this picture, I'm assailed by a restlessness, a weird thrill. The woman I saw isn't here. No, I don't keep her in this cheap piece of paper. Or in the newly scanned pixels on my computer. No way. I'm no longer sure if the Pátio do Colégio, which appeared in the background of the picture, really exist or is only part of an exalted imagination. Even the dog sleeping under the door disappeared.

All that remains of this photo was the wind.